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Obama administration considers executive order on cybersecurity

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, defeated by Republicans in August, could make a comeback as an executive order.


Kevin Collier


Posted on Sep 7, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 11:28 am CDT

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA), President Obama’s favorite of the various cybersecurity bills circulating Congress this year, was defeated in August.

But maybe Obama will just enact it anyway.

According to a report from The Hill, the White House is passing around a version of the CSA to enact as an executive order.

Many details are unclear, but the draft Obama is considering reportedly calls for a multi-agency council managed by the Department of Homeland Security, and allows the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to create cybersecurity standards for private businesses.

While seemingly everyone in Washington has repeatedly called for the U.S. to adopt new cybersecurity laws, proposed bills have been mired in party politics. Senate Republicans, heeding lobbying from the Chamber of Commerce, voted down the Cybersecurity Act in August, saying it would force businesses to adopt stricter safety standards, creating an unfair financial burden on the private sector.

And while many Republicans, and some Democrats, voted the unpopular Cyber Intelligence Security Protection Act (CISPA) through the House, plenty of other Democrats, including Obama, say it doesn’t do enough to keep government agencies from accessing citizens’ private information stored online. Obama has long indicated he prefers the CSA to other cybersecurity bills.

It’s anyone’s guess what effect an executive order, if passed, would have on citizens’ privacy rights. The CSA went through a number of drafts and faced a number of different iterations before its Senate vote, and activists’ opinions on the bill varied accordingly. The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that if it was amended to address Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) privacy concerns, the “worst part” of the bill would be gone. But others, like Fight for the Future, found no substantial difference between the CSA and CISPA.

An executive order shouldn’t be a surprise.

John Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor, said in a speech shortly after the CSA’s defeat that administration should consider such an action, and Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have both written open letters to Obama to do so.

A White House spokesperson said an executive order was one of several options the White House was considering as a means to deal with cyber attacks, but refused to elaborate.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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*First Published: Sep 7, 2012, 1:51 pm CDT